Advocates vs Influencers: Do you know the difference?

These days, marketing is filled with flashy buzzwords: growth hacking, datafication, value exchange, brand essence, storytelling, thought leadership, and more. Two terms that have enjoyed surprisingly long lives as marketing jargon are advocate and influencer, and their longevity hints at their importance in a business’s marketing strategy. Unfortunately, many small business owners and young marketing teams don’t understand the difference between these vital marketing roles, and either use the terms interchangeably or ignore one and focus on the other.

However, both advocates and influencers—along with a handful of other marketing heroes—are integral to a wildly successful marketing campaign. This guide will help small businesses understand the subtle details of each role and why they absolutely need to attract both.

What influencers do?

The definition of an influencer is relatively simple: someone with the ability to influence large numbers of people. In the past, celebrities were the primary influencers, but these days, anyone with a sizeable social media following may work as influencers. For example, prominent YouTubers like Tyler Oakley and JennaMarbles, popular Instagrammers like Hayden Williams and Ella Mills, and productive bloggers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Jessica Stein all have found fortune, fame, and brands eager to partner with them.

Influencers are useful because they come replete with extensive audiences and established power. Fans are more likely to become interested in products their favorite influencers support, which gives brands greater opportunities to make sales. Though consumers may be motivated by different reasons—enhanced trust in influencer messages, increased desire to emulate influencer lifestyles, etc.—it is generally easier to move consumers through the sales funnel when they find their way into it thanks to influencers. In fact, 60 percent of YouTube followers have made purchases based on endorsements from YouTube stars.

Influencers are paid, but that doesn’t mean attracting the right ones is easy. Influencers have brands just like companies do, and it is important that these brands complement one another. After all, an automotive business would see little effect from a partnership with a fashion influencer. What’s more, business leaders should try to attract influencers with the largest audiences to increase their messages’ scope. Useful tools for locating and connecting with influencers include BuzzSumo and Follerwonk. It is also beneficial to have an influencer marketing platform to better manage existing partnerships.

What advocates do?

Though advocates lack the fame of influencers, they have been shown to have exponentially more influence on consumer behavior. Advocates are highly satisfied customers who are willing and eager to spread the word of your business to friends, family, and strangers. In fact, advocates can appear in the wild, already promoting products with no prompting from businesses whatsoever.

Still, businesses are finding ways to encourage customers to become advocates. Loyalty and referral programs are among the most effective because they reward customers for returning to the brand and suggesting the brand to their friends and family. Nielsen found that 92 percent of consumers trust advice from fellow consumers, confirming the long-held belief that word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing strategy. Generating and maintaining consumer advocates is the best way to encourage natural advocacy of a brand.

The most important goal of a company looking to increase its number of advocates is to create a superior product; the second most important goal is creating superb customer service. Customers are more likely to engage in advocacy programs if they are perpetually satisfied with a business. Additionally, companies should have plenty of outlets for customers to share their positive experiences; social media accounts are crucial, especially those most common with the company’s audiences. Finally, businesses should have ample service channels, including feedback portals and live chats, perhaps through a service like Tagove.

What other important marketing movers and shakers do?

Influencers and advocates may be the most important marketing movers and shakers, but they aren’t the only ones. For example, businesses might also want to make use of affiliates, who are similar to influencers but who receive bonuses for each visitor or customer brought in. Affiliates tend to have specific codes, like “Insta230,” that provide consumers small discounts and companies more data on affiliate impact.

Additionally, businesses might develop personas to help them craft more targeted marketing messages. Though personas are rarely real customers, they represent different audiences—including those businesses want to avoid. Being aware of different groups’ backgrounds, needs, and interests is vital in developing a strong marketing strategy.

The Challenge of Choice for Customers

With so many information resources at their disposal, buyers are in a state of content shock and they’re increasingly turning to peers (Advocates) and trusted experts (Influencers) for help. Unfortunately, when 84% of B2B buyers and 92% of consumers rely on recommendations from people they know to make purchasing decisions, traditional sales and marketing tactics start to become less and less effective.

For marketers, finding individuals such as influencers or advocates, who can help move the needle and gain buyers’ trust on your behalf, makes a lot of sense. Often these influencers and advocates can engage your potential customers in ways marketers and salespeople cannot.

If you’re not reaching potential customers through their trusted peers and experts, then the reality is that you’re just not reaching them. Advocates and influencers can help you gain your audience’s attention and trust in ways that are impossible to replicate on your own.

But when should you leverage advocates instead of influencers, and vice versa?Download “Influencers vs. Advocates: What’s the Difference?” to learn:

  • How to determine which is right for you: influencers or advocates (or both)
  • Important dos and don’ts that can make or break your engagement strategy
  • Case studies: How brands use influencers and advocates to drive engagement
  • Best practices for building your own influencer or advocate marketing program

amardeep kaushal

Blogger, Marketer & Data Analyst.

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